The NFL announced its 2016 Hall of Fame class Saturday night and, to the surprise of nobody, the class is headed up by former Minnesota Vikings (and Packer, Jet and Falcon) quarterback Brett Favre.
The Class of 2016 is an eclectic group that includes Favre, Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Eddie DeBartolo, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel.
Nobody needs to justify Favre’s induction. An ironman in the NFL for two decades, Favre was a dominant player who rewrote just about every record there was for quarterbacks and became one of the faces of the NFL. Even when it appeared as though his best days were behind him, Favre put together one of the greatest seasons of his career in 2009 when he donned the purple and gold and broke the hearts of Packers fans.
He threw for 3,000 yards in all but the first and last seasons of his career and recorded 4,000-yard season six times. Favre retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer with 6,300 completions, 10,169 attempts, 71,838 yards and 508 TDs, leading the NFL in TD passes four times, including three straight seasons (1995-97).
The honors were many for him – first-team All-Pro three straight seasons, second-team All-Pro twice, all-NFC six times; selected to 11 Pro Bowls; named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player three consecutive times from 1995-97; started in five NFC championship games and won one Super Bowl; and was a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.
The biggest Minnesota connection to the Class of 2016 was Dungy. He played quarterback for the University of Minnesota before moving on as a player and later a coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers before coming to the Vikings in 1992, where he spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator. It led to his big breakthrough to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In Tampa, he became the architect of a team that would dominate the NFC and eventually become a Super Bowl champion. Dungy went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts for seven years (2002-08), becoming the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.
What separated Dungy from many head coaches is his humanity and gentle demeanor. While many coaches can be fiery and at times hard to deal with, Dungy was as good or better a humanitarian as he was a coach.
The other inductees bring their own unique skills sets to the Hall of Fame. Greene was five-time Pro Bowler, named to the 1990s All-Decade Team, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 and his 160 sacks are a record for linebackers, including four seasons with double-digit sacks after the age of 34 – the most in NFL history.
Harrison was eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a Super Bowl champion, named to the 2000s All-Decade Team and is third all-time in receptions with 1,102, fifth in receiving touchdowns (128) and seventh in receiving yards (14,580).
Pace was the first overall pick of the 1997 draft by the St. Louis Rams and went on to get selected to seven straight Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl and was named to the 2000s All-Decade Team.
DeBartolo was the owner of the San Francisco 49ers for 23 seasons and, while praised as being a players’ owner who brought a family approach to the organization, his success was undeniable. During his run with the organization, the 49ers won five Super Bowl titles.
Stabler, who was nicknamed “The Snake,” played 15 NFL seasons and became synonymous with the bad-boy Oakland Raiders teams of the 1970s. He won one Super Bowl (against the Vikings), was selected to four Pro Bowls, was named to the All-Decade Team of the 1970s and was named MVP of the league in 1974.
Stanfel was a guard who played just seven NFL seasons from 1952-58, but was a two-time NFL champion who was named to five Pro Bowls and was selected to the All-Decade Team of the 1950s.
It wasn’t all happy news Saturday with the announcement of the Class of 2016. Many predicted that QB Kurt Warner and WR Terrell Owns had a strong chance to get their call to the Hall, but neither got the required votes to get into this year’s HOF class.
While the Vikings didn’t have much of an impact on this year’s Hall of Fame class, Dungy and Favre provided fans memories that will last a lifetime and follow them in as they take their rightful places in the Hall of Fame.